People have had much to say about Gavin DeGraw since the announcement of his performance at this year’s Yardfest. The most vocal responses were negative, ranging from resigned disappointment to unapologetic loathing. The campus mentality could be collectively characterized as underwhelmed: “Why not something better?” many asked.
However, many critics of the Yardfest headliner seemed to offer up their anti-Gavin rhetoric without hearing a single song; instead, they based their dissatisfaction on an abstract sense of wanting someone “more famous,” rather than judging DeGraw on the merit of his music.
Gavin DeGraw is, in fact, a widely-known major contemporary music presence. His first album, Chariot, went platinum and sent four singles to the top of the Billboard music charts. And unlike last year’s artist, Third Eye Blind, DeGraw can’t be called “out of date”; he will release a new album in just two weeks. Its first single, “In Love with a Girl,” is already climbing the charts.
And Gavin can’t be reduced to the wishy-washy presence behind the theme song for teen drama One Tree Hill. He can rock out. Blanket characterizations of his songs as merely mellow, acoustic melodies do a disservice to DeGraw’s talents—he can bring the noise and energy as well as any performer gracing the spring concert circuit of American colleges. Look out, Girl Talk!
But don’t take my word for it. An anonymous Harvard fan told me that Gavin excited her so much that she would literally “throw [her] panties on the steps of Memorial Church” upon seeing him. Localized fanaticism aside, his appeal is incredibly broad—regardless of the fact that he doesn’t have the name recognition of, say, Elvis.
Gavin has a fan following all his own, and I’d hazard a guess that a silent majority of students are looking forward to his performance this evening. At very least, a fair number will be pleasantly surprised after first hearing his catalog; I surely was.
But the most important reason that Gavin’s presence will make Yardfest excellent and memorable is the concert’s aura itself—an outdoor, grassy spring affair in the afternoon. Now, I love a good rage-fest as much as the next guy, but Yardfest is more about a laid-back, relaxing evening to enjoy good music, good food, and good company underneath the budding tree canopy of Tercentenary Theater. What could be more quintessentially collegiate than relaxing in the Yard while listening to a guitar-wielding crooner?
James A. McFadden ’10, a Crimson editorial editor, is a government concentrator in Mather House.
Counterpoint: The Wu-Tang Clan does not abide devilry of any kind
“Wu-Tang is here forever, motherfucker,” boasts Ol’ Dirty Bastard in the group’s hit 1997 single “Triumph.” Ironically, he died of a drug overdose only seven years later.
But the Wu-Tang Clan, with its nine living members and hundreds of “affiliates,” won’t disappear so quickly. Older than some Harvard freshman, Wu-Tang still manages to make its presence felt. This evening, their “Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game” (one of several ‘backronyms’ spelling out Wu-Tang that the group has devised for its name) will grace Yardfest in Tercentenary Theater (which has no backronyms).
The Clan is set to open for pop “star” Gavin DeGraw—the approximate equivalent of The Beatles opening for Paul McCartney’s Wings—but regardless of the ordering of their performances, it’s clear who will be taking top billing in the hearts and minds of the audience.
Wu-Tang brings a distinguished rap pedigree to Harvard, boasting several multiplatinum records, including Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, which makes Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums ever produced. Its members have also individually released hits to critical and popular acclaim: Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and GZA’s Liquid Swords are counted among hip-hop’s all-time classics.
And nothing says Harvard like the Wu-Tang Clan. In his 2001 film How High, Clan member Method Man smokes marijuana fertilized by the ashes of his dead friend in order to ace his entrance exam and score admission to Harvard College, setting an excellent example for prospective applicants everywhere. Wu-Tang lyrics are filled with culturally astute allusions, perfect for Harvard eggheads (i.e., “Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses / Can’t define how I be droppin’ these mockeries”). Other verses address issues salient to Harvard students, like the Mather residents who unfortunately discovered their house is located in a school zone after being busted with 16 bags of psilocybin mushrooms (Ghostface Killah’s advice: “If you sell drugs in the school zone / Run!).
Meanwhile, Gavin DeGraw sings about the really important things—like not wanting to be anything other than what he’s been trying to be lately—while wearing what can only be described as an “interesting” assortment of wool caps and cowboy hats. Another one of the “backronyms” for the Wu-Tang Clan is “We Usually Take All N***as’ Garments.” Someone better tell DeGraw to keep an eye on his headwear collection.
Daniel E. Herz-Roiphe ’10, a Crimson editorial executive, is a social studies concentrator in Adams House.